The Bend City Council is considering a draft climate action ordinance to help Bend city government, residents and businesses reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Council will discuss the draft ordinance at a work session tomorrow, Wednesday May 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the Council chambers.
The proposed ordinance lays out a process and timeline for the city to develop climate action plans both for City government operations and the community at-large, and sets science-based targets for reducing local greenhouse gas emissions.
“Taking action on climate change at the local level is the responsible thing to do. We can’t wait for others to act for us,” said Helen Seidler, a member of a group of Bend residents who studied local climate change policies throughout the west and proposed the ordinance.
“Climate change is here, and it’s already putting unprecedented strains on our mountain, forest and river ecosystems, the backbone of our regional economy. If we want a thriving, livable community, we need to protect this special place from the threats posed by climate change,” continued Seidler.
The ordinance goals are to reduce the use of fossil fuels for both the City of Bend and the community by 40 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050 (based on fossil fuel usage from 2010, or more recent years). The ordinance would also create a climate commission comprised of community members to draft the climate plans, which would then be approved by the city council.
Russ Donnelly, another member of the citizen’s group, noted that the ordinance provides an inclusive framework for climate decision-making.
“One of the most important aspects of this measure is the degree to which it incorporates science as well as public input,” said Donnelly. “The public will have opportunities to participate in climate action planning as well as provide input to the city council when the plans are up for consideration.”
Donnelly added that research indicates that the economic benefits of such an ordinance match or exceed the possible costs. This is especially true for communities like Bend where the local economy is closely tied to enjoyment and utilization of forests, rivers and natural areas increasingly stressed by climate change.
Seidler noted that energy conservation strategies save money and contribute to local businesses’ bottom line, while other strategies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions contribute to a more sustainable, livable community—characteristics that have been shown to stimulate more diverse economic activity. She said that the greenhouse gas reduction targets laid out in the draft ordinance track closely not only with international agreements reached at the U.N. climate summit in Paris last December, but also with targets being set by many states, including Oregon.
“It is clear that we can no longer afford to tackle climate change on a piecemeal basis,” said Donnelly. “Climate change is here, it’s altering the natural world where we love to work and play. Something stronger is needed to address these changes, something more comprehensive, but also accessible to real public involvement. This ordinance would do that,” he said.
Note: Mike Riley, Executive Director of The Environmental Center, has been an active participant in the group that developed the draft ordinance and will be part of the presentation to the City Council tomorrow.